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The Church as Hermeneutical Community and the Place of Embodied Faith in Joseph Ratzinger and Lewis S. Mudge


Mary McCaughey

This book adds new impetus to ecumenical theology by focusing on embodied faith or the contextual interpretation of Revelation. It does so through an exploration of the insights of Lewis S. Mudge and Joseph Ratzinger. Mudge advocates catholicity as a hermeneutic which embraces the contextuality of faith in local contexts, including Christian communities and the religious practice of those of other Abrahamic faiths. Through his use of semiotics and social theory, Mudge offers novel ways to interpret faith lived as redemptive existence.
Since for Joseph Ratzinger Revelation can never be fully confined to rational statements, it is nevertheless expressed in living praxis. This relates to his view of wisdom, Tradition, truth and the sensus fidei. Ratzinger focuses on embodied faith in Christian experience, the lives of the saints, New Ecclesial Movements and the plurality of different expressions of faith in synchronic unity.
This study encourages the reader to explore the Church as a sacrament of redemption through contextuality and embodiment. Through the writings of two authors with contrasting and yet complimentary approaches, it highlights the transformative potential of Christianity which can serve as a point of ecumenical learning.
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Chapter One: The Church as a Hermeneutical Community and the Place of Embodied Faith in Contemporary Theological Literature

← 24 | 25 → CHAPTER ONE


This chapter will examine current theological literature which relates to the emergence of the topic of embodied faith in the context of the Church as hermeneutical community. From the literature we draw out how the topic is concerned with current themes most of which are connected to a new way of theologising. This method of theologising is influenced firstly, by postmodernity and its turn to contextual theology understood through the interaction of the language of sociology and theology and secondly, by a new understanding of Revelation which aims to read the presence of God in the living dimensions of Christian life. The aim of the latter understanding of Revelation is to shed new light on the mystery of the Incarnation through attending to the subjective and historical dimensions of receptivity to Revelation.

We begin by examining where in the literature there is attention to “embodied Word” such as: (1) a shift in hermeneutical focus in theology; from the “word” to the embodied word; (2) a shift to the genre of contextuality, narrative and praxis; (3) ecumenical ecclesiology and the emergence of a hermeneutical approach to Christian faith; (4) the influence of post-modernity on the interpretation of faith; (5) reading symbolic and hidden dimensions of embodied faith in its particularity; (6) the place of congregational studies in ecclesiology and the turn to ethnography; (7) the Church as hermeneutical community as the context for the interpretation ← 25 | 26 → of embodied faith. Finally we acknowledge (8) participatory dimensions to an understanding...

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